Was Naomi a Good Mom-in-Law?

Ruth's life gives wisdom in dealing with selfish mother-in-laws
Even though the Book of Ruth has greater meaning than simply a mother-in-law/ daughter-in-law relationship, it still contains a godly example for daughter-in-laws.

In Ruth: 
1. Naomi is bitter, unappreciative and selfish*

2. Ruth honors Naomi because of God’s character, not because of Naomi’s character
 
3. God honors Ruth with one of the highest honors possible


1. Naomi is bitter, unappreciative and selfish*
After Naomi’s sons and husband die, she tells her daughter-in-laws to return to their families, saying:
  
“It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has gone out against me!” (Ruth 1:13)  

From the Bible Knowledge Commentary:
“Naomi seemed a bit insensitive to the grief of her daughters-in-law. She thought that her case was more bitter than theirs because they still had potential for childbearing.” 

Naomi also insists her daughter-in-laws return to their evil pagan culture.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary:
“Naomi was aware that the decision to return meant the continuing influence of the Moabite gods...(1 Kings 11:7)...Naomi did not make it easy for Ruth to come to faith in the God of Israel.”

When they get to Bethlehem, Naomi says:
"I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty.” Ruth 1:20,21 

Bitter and self-focused, Naomi tells everyone she's come back “empty” even though Ruth has given up country and family to accompany her.



2. Ruth honors Naomi because of God’s character, not because of Naomi’s character
Ruth (a Gentile) follows Naomi because she's become a God-follower: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16). 

Next, Ruth takes a difficult, humble job to feed Naomi and herself. When Boaz finds her in his fields:

“Boaz replied, 'I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.'” (Ruth 2:11,12) 

People were talking about Ruth, admiring her faith and loyalty to her bitter mother-in-law.

While Naomi expresses concern for Ruth's future, her plans show little sensitivity toward Ruth. In 3:10 Boaz says Ruth’s kindness in marrying him instead of a younger man is an even greater kindness than returning to Bethlehem with Naomi. He recognizes Ruth's godliness.

3. God honors Ruth by putting her in the linage of Christ
Ruth marries Boaz, they have a son, and everyone recognizes Ruth's value: "For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth’" ( Ruth 4:13-17).

And God honors Ruth by making her a mother in the line of the Redeemer, Jesus.  See Matthew 1:1-17.

I doubt God will ask you or me to leave our country or take a humble job to feed our mother-in-law. But the story of Ruth encourages us to love our mother-in-law out of reverence for God even if she is bitter, unappreciative, and selfish. She may not notice, but God and others will! And we will grow closer to God in the process.

Homework: Read the book of Ruth and ask God to speak to you specifically about your relationship with your mother-in-law...or your mother, if you have these same difficulties with her.
all passages NIV

* This is not to say that Naomi didn't have faith or didn't behave more godly at other stages of her life, but she had allowed life to leave her bitter at this point in time and she freely admitted it. I've behaved like Naomi at times, so I'm not condemning her without acknowledging my own sins, but they are sins just the same.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:420). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books  

For more insights on Naomi and Ruth check out these short Bible studies: Don't Change Your Name and Imagine This.

This is one of my marriage posts, but I post a 1-Minute devotion on my home page every weekday...devotions about my struggles, joys, and lessons learned. If you'd like to have my 1-Minute Bible Love Notes sent to your email box, sign up for a free subscription.

For more insights on this subject:
Part 1: Bless Your Marriage: Love Your Mom-in-Law
Part 2: Mother-in-Laws Who Mock Your Values  
Part 3: Mother-in-Laws Who Interfere 
Part 4: Having God's Heart for Your Mother-in-Law
Part 5: Disinterested In-Laws 
Part 7: Six Things I Did Wrong

Another great post on this subject by Lindsey Bell: 7 Ways to Get Along With Difficult In-Laws 

14 comments:

  1. love studying the book of ruth a love story , a family story , a story we can all learn from

    come see me at http://shopannies.blogspot.com

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    1. yes, the Book of Ruth is rich with meaning in so many areas of life.

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  2. I struggle with this. My Mother in law rarely thinks before she speaks. The things that come out of her mouth can be very hurtful and well, thougtless. I am really trying to look past it. I am not always successful and it isn't always easy but I am working on this. I have seen some positive changes in her so I need to just continue on and do what God would want me to do.

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  3. Also thanks for the perspective. I didn't view Naomi quite like this. I figured she was in deep mourning over the loss of her husband and sons. But, when you think about it, it did cause her to be selfish with her daughter in laws.

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    1. So glad you stopped by, Amber. I know doing these things can be difficult, but they really are worth the effort. I imagine that because Ruth stuck with Naomi during her bitter years, Naomi probably became a better person and a better mother-in-law. At least that's often the case in our lives.

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  4. Thank you so much for this post. I needed to hear this today!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to let me know this was helpful.

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  5. I also forgot to mention we are a different faith as well. She is Catholic and we go to my father in law's church which is a church of the Nazarene. She has told me to pray to a saint if I lose something. I told her I pray directly to God. I am not afraid to say so. She knows I am not Catholic. Wanted us to have a Catholic wedding. He isn't Catholic either. Went growing up but he prefers Christain faith.

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    1. Different faiths can make the relationship challenging, but I know God will give you wisdom in dealing with these situations gracefully. I appreciate you taking time to think through this issue, Amber. It shows that you care, and that's such an important aspect of the relationship.

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  6. Thank you for the well-written summary. Good things to consider. (Found this post through CornerstoneConfessions.com linky party.)

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  7. I love the book of Ruth. Thank you for sharing these insights about moms-in-law. I hadn't ever really thought about it in this way before. I'm sure it was very difficult for Ruth to deal with Naomi's attitude until her heart changed.

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  8. Love the Book of Ruth for sure. All the women of the Bible have such beautiful lessons to teach.
    Blessings to you for sharing.
    QMM

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  9. I love the book of Ruth. I had a very special mother-in-law. Thank you Gail for writing a post that will encourage those ladies who have situations that are challenging.

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    1. P.S. I forgot to thank you for linking up over at WholeHearted-Home Wednesdays. I appreciate you!!

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